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Battle-Tested Oklahoma Has Edge In Big 12

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Blake Bell and the Sooners are much more battle-tested than the intriguing Baylor Bears, who are doing their best Oregon impression thus far. Photo by Jackson Laizure Getty Images.
Blake Bell and the Sooners are much more battle-tested than the intriguing Baylor Bears, who are doing their best Oregon impression thus far. Photo by Jackson Laizure Getty Images.

Without tests, there are no grades.

Without grades, we’re all the same.

And what fun is that?

Tests show true identity — for better or worse. A unique part of college athletics is test day may not come for weeks. With so many teams, it can take a while to get to the good stuff: the games that matter with teams capable of holding up a mirror so their opponents can see their true selves.

In the Big 12, a debate has emerged over the conference’s best team. To some, it’s not even a debate: 70. 5 points a game. Nearly 800 yards of offense a game. A quarterback who averages 52 yards a touchdown pass, and a running back that gains 15-plus yards every third touch.

Baylor is the new darling. Baylor is America’s sweetheart. Baylor is unstoppable.

But Baylor is untested.

If you think you know Baylor, you’re wrong. We won’t know the Bears until they see a worthy opponent, and neither Wofford nor West Virginia earns that title (at least not in 2013).

Once the Bears face resistance, we’ll all see their true face.

But we’ve already seen that of the Sooners, who went into South Bend and left with a two-score win over Notre Dame. The Irish may not be a national contender, but they have a legit program that scored a big win against a ranked Arizona State last week.

Then, Oklahoma came home to battle a spirited, talented squad with a rugged defense in TCU. Sooners 20, Horned Frogs 17.

Ever since Blake Bell took over behind center, Oklahoma has looked like a different and smoother team. And the emergence of running back Brennan Clay, who had a 76-yard TD scamper to put away TCU, gives the Sooners a multi-faceted and controlled attack. The Sooners lead the conference in time of possession.

All that aside, it’s the Sooners’ defense that can carry it to the promised land. Oklahoma held TCU to 16 yards of offense in the first half of its win. The Sooners have not given up more than 21 points (in the 35-21 win to Notre Dame) all season.

Put those things together — possessing the football and stingy defense — and what do you have? A team that can get and keep offenses off the field. Just the type of team that can halt — or slow — Baylor.

The Bears have put up better numbers than my homemade team in Madden 2001. Those numbers, however, lack a punch. And the next few weeks aren’t going to weigh them down any more.

None of the Bears’ next three opponents have a winning record, and overall they are 5-7. A road match at Kansas State (2-3) this Saturday may be the toughest yet, but Baylor won’t be truly tested until the Sooners come calling Thursday, Nov. 7, in a matchup could decide a BCS berth.

By that time, Oklahoma would have been through the fire and back again, however, and coming off a home battle with Texas Tech. The Sooners will be tough, ready, unthreatened. 

But Baylor. How will they react? Nobody knows.

Baylor is a tremendously talented team that is going to put up awe-inspiring numbers, but the Bears need to prove their mettle and until they do, they are not the best team in the Big 12.